Punching, kicking, jumping, repeat. These are the defining traits of a classic video game hero. Ever since Mario first journeyed off to save Princess Toadstool in his original NES title, the action genre has evolved into a broad spectrum of mechanical derivations, and Crazyant’s I Am The Hero aspires to capitalize on the history leading up to its own existence.
At its heart, the game is basically a love letter to sidescrolling beat-em-ups, complete with a variety of stimulating movesets which question the reality of gravity, plus “the story of a Hero with a glorious but mysterious past.” The stylized, pixelated art, soaked in neon, immediately recalls inspirations from gaming’s past, as much Streets of Rage as it is Mega Man. Thanks to its accessible controls that take determination to master, plus an engaging number of enemy types and memorable locations, truly the game’s only great flaw is its lack of originality, and subsequently a lasting memorability.
When we look up to Heroes, who do we see? Why is Heroism so easily defined by traditional game structure? Games tackle space marines and modern warfare soldiers, princes and assassins, even plumbers and dinosaurs. The medium has the capability of empowering audiences unlike any other, and developers often choose simple, usually violent methods of adding heroic credibility to their assumed avatars.
I Am The Hero celebrates the very concept of a classic game Hero but fails to ever inquire deeper than its aesthetic facade. In other words, it looks the part but doesn’t seem eager enough to aspire for more. It walks the walk, but can’t talk the talk.
Which is not an undermining flaw by any means; the game functions suitably well as the sidescrolling beat-em-up it was intended to be. But in a post-Scott Pilgrim: The Game era, works of this genre need to individualize themselves in order to stand out. I Am The Hero relies too much on its dedication to classic staples, forgetting to add compelling characterizations to its mysterious circumstances. Who is this kid I am playing as? The mystery may be intentional, but my lack of interest towards him as the player character surely cannot….
Fortunately, the game most succeeds as arresting fodder. The escalating challenge masterfully makes full use of its controls, bridging the gap between fighting game and beat-em-up thanks to combos and special movesets. Certain stylistic flourishes allow IATH a great sense of worth, hitting the pleasure center of the brain whenever launching foes backwards with a swift divekick, or bouncing them back and forth the walls of the television screen like adorned trampolines. The dash works wonders, weaving in and out of enemies’ precise attacks; especially when the stage is littered with them, forcing players to think quick-wittedly.
The greatest issue with the game’s combat stems from the players ability to take advantage of spamming options. Many times throughout my playthrough, I found it easier to constantly jump and kick baddies into submission, which makes for mindless, boring play. This ability is limited by the player’s own decided use of it, but it makes an otherwise well-thought out combat system seem overlooked in certain areas.
Thankfully the array of opponents and their various abilities creates constantly arousing situations, often throwing dozens at the player at once to tackle, leaving little room for mistakes in order to progress through them. This allows for an infinite assortment of combative scenarios, forcing the player to think strategically during every new encounter they come across. The result is an exciting play-by-play formula for each screen advanced unto; the possibilities are endless.
Aside from conceptual disappointments and some perplexing localization efforts, I Am The Hero rather succeeds at being the stimulating, commemorative sidescroller it so aspires to be. For their first released title, Crazyant already display a remarkable dedication to polish, from the game’s artistic vignettes to its delightful combat mechanics. Moving forward, the elements of storytelling may or may not be expanded upon, though fortunately I Am The Hero does not necessarily need compelling drama to leave players satisfied with their overall experience. Sometimes, a little action is all you really need.